Recently I attended the Resistance Forum put on by PA State Senator Daylin Leach. I don’t know exactly how many people attended, but from my vantage point, it looked like well over 500, with the auditorium filled to capacity, SRO. If you’re not from around here, you may not be familiar with Senator Leach. You can read about him here. Here’s what you need to know: Daylin is a progressive, he’s dedicated to his constituents, and he is a truly decent human being. (In the interest of full disclosure, I served on the board of a charitable organization with him.)
The most important takeaway from the evening, for me, was the background of WHY we resist. Yes, there were tactics discussed, but the why truly matters. What Daylin said was that it was less about individual issues (although they matter) and much more about saving democracy (small “d”) because over time, democracies have fallen, and it could happen here, too. He gave some great markers that should be warnings for us all: the people being chosen to lead us may dismantle the governmental institutions that we rely upon; the suppression of voting rights, a free press, and by extension, free speech. These are things we must stand in opposition to, and things we must be aware of, even if we cannot do anything immediately and directly to stop them.
The Senator pointed out a history of citizen action, of resistance that has worked. He started with the Boston Tea Party, and ended with what the Tea Party began in 2009. None of these actions worked immediately, but all were eventually successful, and honestly folks, we can be, too.
Daylin talked about the need to read the Indivisible Handbook, and use tactics contained within. He went on to talk about making sure to give time and money to organizations that match one’s interests and are fighting the good fight. He talked about the imperative of working from the ground up.
As an old person, who has been politically active for close to 60 years, this resonated with me. In places where the Democratic Party is strong, organization is house-by-house, block-by-block. His talk reminded me that we need to align together, work together, and then create fingers to others in nearby areas and build a web (think spiders, not internet) that is tough, well-thought out, and elegant.
So what do we do? First, there was a list of what to do from least effective to most effective. The list is Daylin’s, the parenthetical comments are mine.
- Twitter and Facebook (These are good, he pointed out for meeting people, but are useless as political action tools beyond straight organization.)
- Online petitions (Think about it: how many email addresses do you have? How many times can you sign? They are completely ignored.)
- Email blasts (Again, useless.)
- Personal phone calls (Daylin said this was effective, but less so than snail mail letters – but they ARE effective provided you are in the person’s district/state.)
- Hand-written letters (Personal letters you write and sign. Include your name, address, phone number, and information about you. You then actually mail them, do NOT put them on the person’s site where they say “Contact Me” and provide an email form. I suppose you could type them, but writing is better.)
- Personal visits to your rep’s offices (Not just their offices, but their public events — even if there is no direct confrontation, you can wear a tee shirt expressing your feelings.)
- Confrontation in a public forum (e.g., a town hall style meeting or something akin) (If you’re going to do this, go with others. Have a plan for who will say what, Make sure you have a credit card in case you get arrested.)
- Confrontation in a public forum with the media present (Media is great, but at least have someone filming at all times.)
What are some other do’s? Again, the list is his, the comments mine.
- Form Social Media Issues Lists (His point was that on a place like Facebook, have a separate list of political allies.)
- Meet up in person (This is so critical – if all of your “allies” are faceless Social Media friends, it’s harder to organize. Wear your safety pins every day, everywhere you go: you never know who you’ll meet. Something to consider: VistaPrint is cheap, and you can have business cards made so that when you meet someone you can easily give them your contact information.)
- Follow hierarchy of legislative action (This is easier to do than you think: there are a number of web sites that list what is being voted on, what is coming to the floor, what is in committee, and what is never coming out of committee. It will help you know when to contact your reps, and encourage others to do so. I will get a list together, and will get that out. For starters, I use GovTrack, although there are others.)
- Support Organizations that act (You know your issues — give until it hurts, because that money isn’t going to help you when we’re all in the camps. Further, even if you can only give $5, it will help, and it truly will make you feel better. If you don’t have issues that really matter to you, consider supporting groups that will be going to court to protect rights.)
- Symbolically Protest (GET OUT THERE!!!)
- Fight for the Broader Cause (This was a very important and interesting point Daylin made. He said that a big problem the left has is that we get mired in the details and forget the big picture, in this case, protecting and saving democracy. When you protest, when you write a letter — don’t give suggestions of what to do instead — make them accountable for what they’re saying. For example: they want to dismantle the ACA — don’t say “Single Payer is better” — it gives them something to attack you back about. Instead, say “I will die without my medicine that I can’t afford while you’re coming up with a solution.”)
So those were my big takeaways. It’s a lot to take in, a lot to think about. But we need to organize our blocks (ignore the people you can’t convince, trust me on this one), work together (and KNOW one another in real life.) You’re a social media person? Use it as a tool, not an end game.
There’s a lot of work – let’s all do it together. And remember folks, just because there’s no presidential candidate on the ballot doesn’t mean there isn’t an election. There are elections THIS YEAR, 2017 — let’s start building our benches from the ground up.